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Onboard Change for Children: a record breaking year

By: Virgin Atlantic

January 29, 2020

In 2019 you, our wonderful customers, donated a remarkable £736,612.04 to our Change for Children onboard collections. That makes it our best year ever and brings the total raised since we began collecting in 2003 to over £9.3 million. That’s incredible. Thank you so much.

How did this all come about?

We’re extremely proud that we were the first airline to introduce onboard currency collections and that so many airlines have followed our lead. Every year airlines raise a staggering amount of money for different charities in this way.

It all started when Joan Branson came across an assorted collection of coins and notes from all over the world. Like many of us, her husband Richard had a habit of returning from his travels and casually tossing his unused currency into ‘that drawer’ (we’ve all got one). Each denomination on its own was probably not worth too much, but add it all together, and Joan realised it would be quite valuable. She thought it would be a great idea to collect that unwanted change and donate it to charity, That’s how this new method of fundraising came to be, and it’s gone on to raise millions for good causes. But what happens to that money you donate?

The Virgin Atlantic Foundation

All decisions relating to our onboard collections and other fundraising activities are made by the Virgin Atlantic Foundation (VAF). This UK registered charity was set up in 2003 to ensure we make the right decisions, share the donations to the right places and allow full scrutiny of everything we do. The VAF board is made up of trustees from across our airline, who work to support the welfare of children and young people through funds raised from our community investment programme.

Five things we do with your money

It’s thanks to your daily donations that we’ve been able to do incredible work, both at home and in countries we fly to. Here are some of the remarkable things that happen because you drop your spare currency in those little envelopes we give out onboard. Most of these initiatives are run through our long-time charity partner, WE.

Passport to Change

We’ve just embarked on our new three-year adventure with WE called Passport to Change. Since 2010, thanks to our Change for Children appeal and staff fundraising, we’ve supported a vast range of WE initiatives to make life-changing impacts across the world. As we move into the next phase of our partnership, we want to focus on and invest in young people local to us.

Passport to Change is our flagship community programme for school children in our local areas, raising aspirations and engagement with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). We know that as the working world changes, STEM and technical skills are becoming more important than ever. But there’s a shortage of young people studying these subjects, along with a gender imbalance, with far fewer girls choosing to study STEM subjects than boys. So we partnered with WE Charity to create Passport to Change, preparing 11–14 year-olds with the skills they need for the future. With educational resources created by WE, and our amazing people sharing their experiences, participating students are inspired and prepared for any career path.

We’re proud to be empowering the next generation to reach their potential.

WE Day

WE Day UK is an inspirational event that brings together tens of thousands of young people who have all earned their tickets by taking action for local and global change. The day is filled with amazing performances and inspirational real-life stories. But don’t take our word for it, have a look at this short video, which perfectly captures the spirit of WE Day and what it’s all about

WE Day UK 2019.

Scholarship trip

Your Change for Children donations also funds our annual Virgin Atlantic scholarship trip. Each year, we receive hundreds of applications from UK secondary school students to win this trip of a lifetime: two weeks in one of the WE Villages communities we support.

In order to win one of the 30 spots on the trip, applicants have to show a commitment to social justice. They’re all burning with a desire to make the world a better place. When the winning trip participants come together, it’s awe-inspiring to see the passion they have to create positive change in the world. Read what this experience is like from a student’s perspective here.

WE Villages (India)

Your change supports several WE villages in rural Rajasthan in India. WE’s sustainable development programme recognises that there’s not one root cause of poverty – it’s a collection of interlinking factors. WE believes that if everyone has access to education, water, healthcare, food and income-generating opportunities, we can break down the barriers to poverty.

Emergency relief funds

We also have a long-time partnership with Save the Children to manage our coordinated response to humanitarian disasters, wherever they happen in the world. In 2017, we made the decision to move away from supporting individual appeals, and instead divert our Change for Children funds twice per year to their Emergency Fund. This fund is vital, as it helps Save the Children respond flexibly and quickly to urgent, fast-developing or forgotten emergencies. It also allows Save the Children to work to avert crises before they become life-threatening by preparing communities with pre-positioned resources to respond within a few hours of an emergency occurring and limit the impact they can have. And we’ve raised over £110,000 so far. You can read more about our partnership here.

We’re so proud of our charity partnerships. And it’s thanks to our customers’ deep generosity that we’re able to accomplish so much, together. All of your spare change, large or small, is what propels all of the extraordinary projects above, empowering people at home and overseas to act as agents of change in the world. So from all of us at Virgin Atlantic, a huge and sincere thank you. Because small change really does add up to great things.

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